The first practice session of the 6 Hours of Nurburgring ended early with a red flag, but not before Earl Bamber could put the 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning Porsche at the top of the timing board. It was Ferrari who was fastest with the #71 AF Corse, even though Aston Martin are the cars with the Balance of Performance advantage this weekend.
From the result of first practice, it looks like it is going to be a tight battle between Porsche and Toyota Gazoo Racing. Both teams have one car that is predominately in the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship, so it can be predicted that the focus will be on the #2 and #8. It was these two cars that lead the field this morning, with Sebastien Buemi leading the field until there were just ten minutes of the session left.
Bamber climbed into the car for the final stint of the session and put in a new fastest lap time of a 1:41.612, 0.204 seconds faster than Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 Toyota. But the fight at the front appears to be the closest it has ever been as the top four were covered by just over three-tenths of a second. Porsche have fitted their high downforce package to the 919s this weekend, a package they will keep on the car for the remaining race meets of the year.
The rest of the field held the class leader throughout the hour and a half session. Vaillante Rebellion laid down a statement of intent with a 1:47.717, a clear six-tenths of a second faster than anyone else in the LMP2 class. However, their session came to a messy end after contact was made with the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche with five minutes to go.
The contact saw damage to the left-hand sidepod of the #31 and front damage to the #77. This suggests that the Porsche hit the side of the Rebellion, but the incident that led to the contact is unknown. A red flag was brought out to clear the incident as the Rebellion stopped against the barrier on the inside of the pit entrance.
Davide Rigon and Toni Vilander were fastest in the LMGTE Pro class, ahead of the #92 Porsche GT Team. Even though they have a lighter car with the BoP advantage, the Aston Martins did not show a threatening pace in free practice. It could be that the teams are saving extra performance for qualifying and the race, but the two Aston Martin Racing entries were at the bottom of the Pro field, around nine-tenths off the pace of the AF Corse.
There was not a lot of difference in the pace of the Am class, with the fastest car being the #77 Porsche. The 1:59.208 was only six-tenths faster than the slowest in class, Am Championship leader #61 Clearwater Racing. It looks like the Am class could present a close battle throughout the six hours of racing come Sunday.